Founder | Church Planting Ninja
In Reaching The Unreached, I talked about evangelism and the most current trend of all…the trend of replacing evangelism with something else. “Marketing and attracting crowds of Christians from other churches is what leaders fall back on when they don’t have the nerve to hit the front lines and actually reach lost people.”
Therefore, the most useful trend in the field of evangelism is having the grace, grit and gumption to do it at all.
And in order to reach people, you actually have to get around them. When I train church planting teams and churches how to reach their communities, I have them focus on these 5 areas:
1. Recreational Activities
There are sports teams, cross-fit groups, and individual fitness plans that people like to partner up on. Cross-fit itself is one of the best parallels of church that exists. People find that they enjoy honing the body better in groups than in isolation. Church is Cross-fit for the soul. Therefore, unbelievers are already craving true community. This is where the church planter is provided with opportunity to enter into the rhythms of society and be a part of the conversation that people are already having. There are more activities than just sports. People who take their kids to dance, gymnastics, and soccer games form a type of community. There are play groups for stay-at-home-moms. There are sewing groups, sculpting classes, and yoga classes. The possibilities are endless. Find a rhythm in the community that you’re planting in, and fall in line with it. If you’re in Southern California, perhaps you’d benefit from taking up surfing. If you’re in the wilds of Alaska, perhaps you’d enjoy sponsoring sled-dog racing. Church planters think like missionaries when it comes to strategic engagement, but at the end of the day, they need recreational breaks as much as anybody. Recreation is there to help you to relax from the pressures of life, blow off steam, and have fun with other people. Let your enjoyment of life become part of the mission that God has sent you on.
2. Intellectual Pursuits
Art class. Reading groups. Cooking classes. Night school. Many people are always trying to learn more, feed their minds, and stimulate deeper thinking. Public libraries provide opportunities to teach writing workshops, or to speak on an area of expertise. Going to art exhibits with your neighbors and engaging in discussions about an artist’s work can provide amazing gospel conversations. One of my favorite outreaches was a film club where the group watched a film, and somebody presented a ten minute talk on why they chose it for the group. Then everybody got to speak into the themes that the film dealt with. Morality. Mortality. Such themes abound in movies. Movies are windows into the human experience, and many films feature themes of redemption. If that’s not a gospel conversation waiting to happen, nothing is. After all, everybody’s a critic.
3. Social Causes
Unbelievers today are socially aware to the conditions in their world, and socially awakened to do something about it. Namb has two major missional branches The Send Network (Church Planting) and Send Relief (Disaster Relief/Mercy Mission). Nothing speaks so powerfully about grace than a group of people sacrificially serving others. Often when non-believers witness the love of God in action, they are moved to join in and help. For church planters this provides a huge opportunity to “pick a fight” with an area of darkness in your city and engage in meaningful mission. There is a saying that you earn the right to speak to a culture when you serve a culture. Gospel conversations abound and flourish when we serve the less fortunate ones in a community. It could be kids aging out of foster care, making them vulnerable to sexual predators or the sex trade. It could be homelessness. Sex trafficking. Often, people in your community who are disinterested in the gospel initially, come along because they share the desire to see these things eradicated from their city. Seeing you in action causes them to want to listen to what you believe.
Everybody has to eat. For that reason, inviting somebody over to eat seems like a big ask, but it doesn’t necessarily take a huge investment of time if you’d already planned to do it anyways. Instead of an hour around the table, you might spend two hours in conversation with your neighbors. You could host a block party on memorial day, grill hotdogs, and rent a bounce house. You can provide coffee for the commuters standing at the bus stop in an urban setting. Mark a day of the week, mark a bus stop bench, and own it. Serve coffee out of a Starbucks traveler until everybody has caught their bus. Go to a Laundromat. Tell them that you represent a program that pays for people’s laundry on certain days of the week. When they ask what program, tell them about your church, and how you desire to be an embodiment of grace and love to the community by showing people with your actions, not just your words. Serve coffee and cookies. Make it a party. The opportunities are endless, and the more creative you get, the more fun you’ll have. And remember, that’s part of the power of it.
Finally, certain places in your neighborhood are the activity. Belonging to a particular place of business can foster a sense of community. In Britain, it’s the local pub. In America, it can be the coffee shop, or a place to eat, or a bar. These places are all what Alan Hirsch calls “proximity spaces”, or places where the people congregate and establish an unspoken relationship and fostered sense of community. It could be a skate park, a secret surfing spot, known only to locals, or a park in an urban setting. It could even be a HUD. Whenever you see these places, consider doing business there. Especially if it’s a hub in the community you’re trying to reach. To ignore these places is to ignore the way that Paul operated when he entered a city. He set up a booth in the marketplace, visited the synagogue, and ate with the gentiles. All of this was strategic.
You won’t reach the world sitting behind your desk. Don’t even bother trying that way. The key to reaching people is getting out there, and there’s just no substitute, tool, or program that can do that for you.
Want more resources for evangelism? Check out the Exponential’s Evangelism Resource Kit. This kit includes audio and video from Larry Osborne, David Kinnaman, Alan Hirsch, Jon Ferguson, Peyton Jones and more from past Exponential Conferences.
Peyton Jones is a husband, and dad to two amazing girls that he is slowly corrupting to like all things Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and DC. He is a self admitted serial church planter. When Peyton isn’t planting he is an author, speaker, university lecturer, and outreach consultant. Peyton loves to help church planters engage in front line 1st century style church planting as well as help established churches think like a church planter in order to regain their edge and missional focus. Check out more from Peyton here.